Monday, March 30, 2009

Search Engine Optimization - Part III - The Keyword List

Keyword Optimization
The basis of any Search Engine Optimization plan is the Keyword List. This is a document that will direct all of the other activities you conduct, and give you a measurable goal to continually try to attain.

The Keyword List
The keyword list is a list of keywords that reflects how you want Google to see you site. Since you cannot be all things, this list needs to be specific and prioritized. The list must reflect your marketing and strategic goals on the web.

Once the Keyword List is finalized, it will be used as a guide for you when updating information used on the website. The goal is to have the list of keywords provided by Google to match the keywords you specified on your list. This will also force you to create a clear vision for the content on the website.

A strategically developed keyword list can help you target the customers you want and help you target your market.

Since the factors that go into developing this list will fluctuate over time, it is important to reflect that in the Keyword List. Therefore, develop a systematic process to review and update the Keyword List at specific intervals.

Develop the Keyword List
The first step in determining your Keyword List is to see how Google views your site. The best way to do this is to sign up for a Google Webmaster Tools Account. Follow the "Google Webmaster Tools" link in the "Helpful Webtools Links" near the top right of this page. Sign up for an account, if you need to, and follow any directions to set up a site for use with Google's Webmaster Tools.

Once you have this account set up, click on the "Statistics" link along the left side, and select "What Googlebot Sees". This page will present you with a lot of information about how Google sees your site. The first table gives a list of the top terms that are used as links to your site. You don't have too much control over this, but we will revisit it later. Scroll down and look at the table labeled "In your site's content". This tells you how Google sees your site based on the content of your site. The content of your site would include page titles, product names, category names, etc.

As you can see, this list can be very different than what you want Google and your customers to see. How do we change this? The first step is to develop a keyword list that reflects what we want Google to see. There are a few tools we can use to devise this list.

How are You Found?
When web searches come to your site from a search engine you are able to track that visit and what words that person used to find your site. You can do this by using Google's Webmaster Tools, click the "Statistics" link on the left side and click "Top Search Queries". You will see two lists. One represents the searches that your site appears in search results, the other, represents a list of searches that users actually clicked on to get to your site.

These two lists give you a good idea of how customers are currently finding your site, and where your site appears on Google's list for that specific search criteria.

What are People Searching For?
The previous method of building a Keyword list involves understanding how customers currently find your site. It does not represent how customers could be finding your site. We need to know what other ways customers could find your site.

Google offers a web-based software product that allows you see what people are searching for on the web, and how many people are searching for certain terms. This type of knowledge can help you prioritize your keyword list based on what people are searching on. For instance, most customers might find your website based on the term “jewelry”, but we find out that there are more people searching for the term “earring” than jewelry. This indicates to us that we should reprioritize one key word over another.

This software has other benefits by allowing users to drill down into different types of searches to get more relevant information about user searches. This software can also provide information about what customers are looking for, and how you can respond to those market forces in areas such as marketing.

You can get to this software by clicking on the "Google Keyword Tool" link near the top right of this page. You either plug in you website, or a group of keywords, and Google will return to you a list of keywords, their relative competition in terms of ad dollars, a monthly average number of searches, and an estimate of the number of searches for that keyword last month.

How Do We See Ourselves?
Now that you have established some ideas for your keyword list, it is important to step back, and see what items do not appear on the list. What aspects of your business do you see not represented in these lists. It is important to check the popularity of these keywords with Google's Keyword Tool.

Completing the List
Now that we have gotten input from all of these different lists, it is important to devise a systematic way to prioritize these keywords given the different inputs. Once the list is almost completed, it is important to give it one more review with human eyes, and develop the final order of your keywords. This list should be updated at specific intervals, preferably every year, or more frequently.

Monday, March 23, 2009

Search Engine Optimization - Part II - Populartiy and Relevance

Why Google?
Google is the largest Search Engine in the world wide web accounting for 53.6% of searches compared to Yahoo!(19.9%) and Live Search (12.9%). Many other web search engines use Google’s technology, or have attempted to emulate it. For this reason we will focus our efforts on improving our ranking with Google. Our ranking on other search engines will also improve.

How Does Google Work?
Google uses two basic concepts to organize websites in search results, popularity and relavance. First, every page that Google looks at receives a PageRank, which reflects how popular that page is. Second, Google assigns a list of key words to designate what that site is about. Google will show your site if a search is relevant to the keywords on your site. Google combines these popularity with relevance with a user’s search to provide their search results.

Page Rank
PageRank is a mathematical model for gauging the popularity of any one web page, not an entire site. This distinction is important to keep in mind.

PageRank is calculated by giving each individual page on the internet an inherent "score". By linking to a second page, the first page “votes” for the second page, passing the PageRank value of the first page to the second page. If there are multiple links on the first page, the PageRank passed onto the second page is divided up amongst all the links.

Pages that have a lot of links to them have a higher PageRank. The higher the PageRank of the initial page the higher the PageRank of the receiving page. Sites with a large number of pages have an advantage because of the inherent value of each page in the site.

Google uses PageRank to determine which pages are more popular than others. Web pages with a higher PageRank are considered more popular than pages with a lower PageRank. These web pages appear higher in search engine results.

The goal is to increase the PageRank of the pages on your website. PageRank within your own site can be maximized by linking all pages on your website from all other pages. Increasing the number of internal links will increase the PageRank of all the linked pages. This must be weighed against having too many links on a page.

The other way to increase PageRank is to increase the number of links to your website. This way the PageRank of pages from other websites will be conferred onto a page on your Website. Conversely, it will be important to review the links on your site to external sites. If they are not necessary, get rid of them.

Google develops a list of key words for each page it looks at. These key words are words that Google believes are associated with this site, or hold meaning for what this site is about. The keyword list is based on two main factors. First Google looks at the words used on the page. Words that are used more often and words that appear closer to the top are given more weight. Second, Google looks at the text in links to your site, or links within our own site.

Search Matching
Google then takes a users search and tries to match the terms against the keyword list it has generated for different pages, and combines that with the page rank to generate its list of search results. A good page rank and a clearly defined keyword list are important for receiving a favorable search ranking.

Monday, March 9, 2009

Search Engine Optimization - Part I

Introduction to Search Engine Optimization

With so much competition on the world wide web, how do you and your products stand out from everyone else's? How can you get your message out to specific customers that want what you have to sell? How do you increase your website's exposure without spending vast amounts of money?

The most cost effective strategy for your website is to optimize your web site for search engines. What does that mean? Optimizing your website for search engines means a lot of things, but the end result is that your website will appear higher in search engine results, exposing your site, and your products to more people.

What is a search engine? A search engine is a program that gathers information about web pages on the internet, and then presents that information on a web page based on criteria someone provides. Google is the best known search engine in the United States. Others include Yahoo! and MSN search. Baidu is the largest search engine in China.

What are search engine results? The search engine results are the list of websites that come up when you do a Google search. The order of these results can make a difference to your business, and your bottom line. The higher your site appears in these results, the more people will see it, and the more it will be clicked on.

Over the next few months I'll be laying out some very specific and inexpensive ways that you can optimize your online store or website to appear higher in search engine results through a process known as Search Engine Optimization (SEO). My goal for each post will be to give you something you can implement today to increase the traffic to your site through search engines.

As we go along this journey, I encourage you to post comments and questions. This will help me to better understand your needs.

I'm looking forward to your feedback, and hope this will be helpful to you and your online jewelry store.